Despite these common roots, the cast-iron teapot also played a role in the Japanese tea ceremony. The design of the ceremonial hand-cast teapot was considered art and reflected the status of the owner.
"Teapots used in the tea ceremony were very prized," said Leslie Wolcott, a Laguna Beach, Calif., antiques dealer. "The ornamental ones were often passed on from generation to generation."
The owner of Wolcott Asian Antiques said she appreciates Tetsubin for their "artistic beauty" and buys them whenever she can find them. She often has several at her shop on Pacific Coast Highway.
The ornamental Tetsubin with intricate relief designs and inlays of copper, gold and silver were reserved for the tea ceremony, Wolcott said.
Identifying marks left by its maker are sometimes found under the lid.
Most of the Tetsubin found in California date from 1900 to 1940. The value of an unadorned Tetsubin can range from $150 to $200, to thousands of dollars for a more ornamental piece. For example, a small Tetsubin made by a famous swordmaker in Japan sold for $35,000 at a Christie's auction last year, Wolcott said.
Japanese tea bowls and other ceremonial accouterments can also run into the thousands of dollars, she said.